Coulson charged over phone hacking

by Daphne Liddle

PRIME Minister David Cameron’s former director of communications, Alan Coulson has been charged, along with seven other people, with conspiring to hack into the phones of more than 600 people, including the schoolgirl murder victim Milly Dowler.

The phone hacking is alleged to have happened while Coulson was employed as editor of the now defunct News of the World and continued over a period of six years.

The eight people charged are Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, also a former News of the World editor, Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor of the News of the World, Ian Edmondson, former assistant editor (news), Greg Miskiw, a former news editor, Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter, James Weatherup, former assistant news editor, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire.

Kuttner faces three charges, while Miskiw faces 10 charges. Edmondson faces 12 charges, Thurlbeck eight, and Weatherup eight.

Mulcaire is charged over the voicemails of four people including Milly Dowler. They have all denied the charges.

The charges follow many months of investigation, a parliamentary inquiry and the Leveson Inquiry. Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions, said she had determined that "a prosecution is required in the public interest in relation to each of these eight suspects" after satisfying herself that "there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction".

The victims of the alleged phone hacking include a wide spectrum of celebrities, sports personalities and people associated with high profile criminal cases.

They also include many leading Labour politicians such as the former deputy prime minister John Prescott, two former home secretaries, David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, and the former culture secretary Tessa Jowell.

These were people in elected office who were often demonised in the News of the World and other News International papers because News International owner Rupert Murdoch did not approve of their politics.

Through his press empire Murdoch wielded considerable political power and influence and his papers boasted of it.

“It’s the Sun wot won it!” boasted the Sun after Tory leader John Major won the 1992 general election.

Leading politicians felt they had to appease Murdoch for fear he could wreck their careers with adverse publicity and the alleged phone hacking would have been a vital tool in exerting that power.

Murdoch played a big role in persuading Tony Blair to go along with George W Bush’s plans to invade Iraq in 2003.

David Cameron, before the phone hacking scandal broke last year, was careful to keep on good terms with Rupert Murdoch, his press empire and its leading personnel.

He chose Coulson as his communications director after knowing him well as a Murdoch acolyte. And Cameron was well acquainted with Rebekah Brooks; they went riding together and exchanged informal text messages suggesting they were good friends.

John Whittingdale, who chairs the Commons Culture Select Committee, said after the charges against Coulson, Brooks and the other six were announced that it was "embarrassing" for the Government, adding that it was an "important day" and "not a great day" for the press or politics.

He told Radio 4's World at One: "Obviously it is embarrassing the fact that a former director of communications is being charged with criminal offences.”

Lord Prescott welcomed the CPS decision. "For five years and more I've been fighting now just to get a proper examination of it," Prescott told the BBC. "I wasn't satisfied with the parliamentary ones.

Murdoch himself seems to have been aware that the charges were impending and last week resigned from the boards of all his remaining News International newspapers in Britain newspapers: the Times, the Sun and their Sunday equivalents.

The New York-based parent company News Corp announced in an emailed statement: “Last week Mr Murdoch stepped down from a number of boards, many of them small subsidiary boards, both in the UK and US.

“This is nothing more than a corporate housecleaning exercise prior to the company split.” This could be the beginning of the downfall of the Murdoch empire but it will not be the end of control of the western world’s media by rich and powerful capitalists.